Why artists are failing at Social Media

And how to get back into the game.

Summer holidays are over, it’s back to classes and homework. That includes me as well. While I’m preparing classes for students at Hogeschool Inholland Haarlem and Herman Brood Academie, I would like to share with you some of my core views on using social media as an artist or artist manager. Consider this part one. I am sure I will return with more insights, do’s and don’ts, reminders, hacks in the near future.

Let me start at the point where it should start:
managing expectations.

I work on social media strategies with artists on a regular basis. When taking off on our soon to become strategy I always ask: how do you feel things are going at the moment? What would you like to achieve? Based the answers they give me I can pretty much tell why they feel disappointed with the results of their current strategy — if they even had one. And it’s often not necessarily because of the strategy itself. Let me show you.

‘We would like to get more likes on our posts’
‘We want to sell more concert tickets’
‘We want people to share our video’s’

I’m pretty sure all artists (and companies) use social media to reach their target audience and to sell their products. What most neglect to see — and more importantly neglect to take into account when firing up a strategy — is that Social media platforms are not billboards on the side of the road or advertisements in the newspaper. Sure, there is huge potential for selling. But the question you should be asking is:

How can I build a solid and trustworthy relationship with my audience?

But why? I want direct results and instant conversion. Well buddy, I hate to break it to you: there is no such thing on Social Media. You have come to the wrong place. Please read on.

Fun (and honestly quite scary) fact: The average attention span for watching videos on Facebook is 8 seconds. And counting. Down. If you know what I mean.

Some insights that might help
‘Social Media’ are platforms where the user is the curator, not some board of editors/directors. To make effective use of #SocialMedia you have to understand that the users did not come to these platforms to buy stuff. That is what Webshops are for. No, they come to be entertained. To make connections. To identify themselves with others, or not at all. To step out of (or escape) their own life, and dive into another’s. Now let the latter resonate when I continue with the following. Most of your ‘favorite’ platforms — like Facebook and Instagram — use algorithms to make sure that the user sees what it wants to see. Or to put it more personally: the algorithm uses your click/like/search information to determine what you will (and won’t) see in the future. That means:

The quality of content matters.
The relevancy of content matters.
The context of content matters.

In straight talk that means:
If what you’re posting doesn’t strike a chord with user X → user X and Mr. Algorithm will make sure that user X will not see any more of your content in the near future.

This is where building a relationship with your audience is so damn important. They need to feel important, involved and entertained. That’s when (and where) the magic happens. That’s when content is liked, videos are shared and tickets are sold. So take some time off from looking at the numbers. Focus on quality, relevancy and context. Something as simple as asking yourself the following questions before you post anything, will help you increase the possible success of your content:

– Is this entertaining, informative, funny or interesting?
– Is my image/video high quality and/or striking enough?
– Am I directing this to the right people on the right platform?
– Am I asking too much of the person reading this?
– Is the text or video too long?
– Are the hashtags relevant, memorable or too much?
– Do I sound authentic and sincere?
– Will the content resonate with the reader?

Let’s finish with a couple of important DON’TS:
1. Like-baiting. The word ‘bait’ already emphasizes the negative side of this 21st century phenomenon. What is like-bait? -> ‘Click like if you’re also having a shitty Monday morning’. It will extend the reach on that particular post, sure. But it will diminish the reach on your upcoming posts, all thanks to Mr. Algorithm (he doesn’t really like click- and like-baiting).

2. Platform copying. We all know that guy/girl that auto-posts Instagram to Facebook and Twitter. What you will see on Facebook are @tags that don’t work and a million hashtags that Facebook users don’t like (pretty sure Mr. Algorithm feels the same). On Twitter the @tags are clickable, but might lead to nowhere or someone different (don’t we all have different page names? Damn you other girl who took my Username!!). Further more photos are not directly visible, you need to click-through to see and read the full post. Who’s got time for that?! Especially not for someone who doesn’t even put in a little bit of effort for his Twitter followers. Tragically missed opportunities here people.

3. Repeated content. If you’re afraid the morning people didn’t catch your video from last night, don’t post it again. For starters, Mr. Algorithm will recognize and immediately diminish your reach. Secondly, not very sympathetic now is it? If you do want an increase in reach, put your money where your mouth is. Boost that post and set your target audience right.

Remember: you’re selling a good night’s sleep, not the mattress

Wait, what? Paying for reach?! Have they gone out of their minds?! Well, they didn’t. You just did. Social Media may not be a billboard or newspaper ad, but is convincing people to come and buy from you any different than any other kind of advertisement you need to pay for?

Well. That’s it for now folks. We will be announcing a Social Media masterclass going into depth about all of this somewhere between now and I’m not sure. It sure doesn’t hurt letting me know you would be interested.

Photo by Erik Lucatero – Unsplash.com

Learning vs. performing — why we need both to grow

When was the last time you embraced learning like you did when you were in school?

When was the last time you embraced learning like you did when you were in school? And I don’t mean through studying frantically and being psyched to attend classes. What I mean is embracing the fact that you’re not as good as you can be, yet, and it will take hours and days of trying, learning, failing and repeating. I’ll answer my question for you: you probably haven’t embraced learning for a long time. Here’s why and how you need to change that.

When we grow up and pass a certain age and it feels society is pressuring us to get our life together we tend to dive into what is called a performance-zone. We are scared shitless about making mistakes and tend to avoid situations where we need to try new things, things that we may not be able to execute perfectly yet. Even though we fully understand we learn a lot more from failing than we do from succeeding we just can’t shake this feeling of: ‘but what if I fail?’

Rest assured, it is not only your own head that makes it difficult to surpass this feeling. We put our kids through schools that evaluate succes based on grades and we hire people based on resumés indicating degrees. It is damn hard to find the time, momentum and proper support to learn safely without killing your chances or reputation. But in order to really grow and reach our full potential it is absolutely vital you create a learning-zone next to your performance-zone. But how?

Here are a couple of ways to make sure you can get back to learning once in a while.

1. Surround yourself with people that are likeminded and actually want you to grow Spend more time with people that motivate and support you when it comes to trying new things. Or better said, stop spending time with people that discourage you and make you feel like you need to perform all the time.

2. Find small and hobby-like projects to practice safe learning Don’t try to reinvent your current job all together (high-stakes) but focus on smaller projects on the side (low-stakes) that will help further develop your overall performance. For instance writing or acting classes or mindfulness and yoga.

3. Ask for help It is never easy to admit that you’re struggling. So don’t make it any harding than it needs to be. Find someone outside of your current workplace or group of friends that you are comfortable sharing your doubts and needs with. They may even give you new insights that you wouldn’t have gotten from the people you already surround yourself with.

4. Change your environment Home-traffic-work-traffic-home-sleep -> repeat. Does this look like your life? Change it up! Get some fresh air, work outdoors in a city park for a few hours, talk to strangers, go down to the petting zoo and pet a goat or bunny rabbit. Your brain needs fresh new impulses to get new ideas flowing and it needs some alone time to calibrate experiences.

Is your boss not too keen on ‘working-at-home’ days? Quit your job and find a smarter boss that recognizes the necessity to provide a playing field for her/his employees in which they can grow and be productive.

Last but not least. It all starts with actually wanting to learn. Focus on your wish to learn — not on your wish to succeed. What you feed will grow and if you don’t work towards a safe and motivating learning environment for yourself, others won’t either.

That’s it for now. Let me know what project or hobby you have taken on to boost your learning zone. I’ll start: I’m working on getting better at writing, specifically copywriting. I’ve been reading a lot more books lately trying to find patterns, styles and best practices. I’m quite sure I’ll be writing the President’s speech one day. Oh wait. I shouldn’t focus on succeeding. Right.. well. Good luck!

Photo by Rachel – Unsplash.com

Work well – feel well – do well

Ten daily routine rules I wish I learned when I was propelled into a fast moving high-performance expecting world.

I clearly remember the moment I was looking at my screen, my eyes were itching, my butt sore from sitting for hours on end and my head pounding like a wild river sucking along all my creative thoughts. And I thought: ‘Isn’t there another — more healthy and productive — way of working?’

After years of trying to figure it out I have found the answer to that question. I also found that I wasn’t the only one struggling with that same question and moreover, when I started teaching the next generation I discovered that I wasn’t necessarily to blame.

We teach students what the industry looks like, what kind of work you will need to perform, we go through theory and practice. We tell them to be go-getters, to never hold back and climb your way up. But we don’t teach them how to maintain a healthy day-to-day routine, how to deal with stress and conflict, how to read the signs and say no whenever needed.

So what follows next are my 10 daily routine rules I have found to bring forth a more healthier — and therefore happier and more productive — work life. Some days I get them all right and thrive, sometimes I feel empty and tense and notice I have been failing on a few for a while.

Whatever you decide to do with these ‘rules’, experiment with them and find your own sweet spot. Most importantly: don’t beat yourself up when the going gets tough. Take a deep breath and work your way back to that sweet spot. Good luck!

GENERAL

Pick one medium to communicate important/work matters
When you get information, questions and/or info through different services/devices like email, sms and WhatsApp, it is really hard to keep track and errors are inevitable. Further more it prevents you from having some me-time, because work is everywhere on all services and devices.. Aaargh!

Choose which service you like to work with and have a standard answer ready for communication on other services/devices: “Sounds cool, can you send me an email with the details so I can confirm?”

Be careful with making promises
Never offer ‘Yes, sure’ as a standard reply. It will set expectations you can’t keep up and it prevents you from looking at the task in an objective way. When you’re not directly claiming ownership you’re distancing yourself from the task long enough to be able to analyze it properly and respond in everyones best interest. Try responding by asking more questions so you can determine urgency, responsibility and main objective. It may even turn out not to be your responsibility at all. Lucky you! A couple of examples of counter questions: “When do you need it?” or “Do you need this today?” “Can I get back to you about this?” “Can you send me the details, background and objective in an email?”

Questions you can ask yourself: “Do I have time for this within the given timeframe?” “Am I the right person to handle this right now?”

PLANNING

Make a time efficient week planning. Think of what needs to be done that week and schedule accordingly. Cluster meetings into 1 or 2 parts of a day and leave plenty of room for undisturbed working. You might not be able to follow through on everything but it will help you stay disciplined and it creates headspace for executing tasks without being distracted by thoughts about what still needs to be done.

Start the day with a realistic day planning. And by starting I literally mean it needs to be the first thing you do in the morning. Don’t open your mailbox yet! Check your week planning, specify tasks/calls/etc. and think about timeframes. End your day by checking what you finished and what needs to move to a different day on your week planning.

Set a timer and honor breaks. Did you know that when you sit your blood starts to flow slower, causing your brain to get less fresh blood and oxygen, which are needed to trigger the release of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals. And that’s only the effect it has on the brain, I’m sure you can imagine what sitting does to your muscles and organs.

Schedule your activities in bits of 20 minutes and set a timer to let you know times’ up. Get up, stretch and get yourself a new hot cup of tea. It will also provide an insight into how realistic your planning actually is and you will be able to change accordingly resulting in a more effective planning and use of time.

EXECUTING

Start the day with the difficult tasks, end it with the pleasant ones. And start the first activity before you open your mailbox in the morning. Your mind will be at its freshest in the morning and more capable of handling something you don’t feel like doing. Because surely you don’t want to do that awful thing anymore when you have been at it for a few hours already, right?

Limit distractions during focused work. Science taught us that it takes the average person 20 minutes to fully get back to a specific task after being interrupted. Apart from a lot of time lost, interruptions can cause stress and change your mood. If you need to focus, find a spot where you can work undisturbed or put on headphones and tell your colleagues it means you wish not to be disturbed.

p.s. Don’t forget incoming email and phone messages (even app notifications) create similar distractions and anxiety. Shut down and/or enable flight mode.

Categorize tasks and cluster the ones that are connected. Just like interruptions can disrupt your productivity and creativity, so can changing from one task to the other. When you’re working on different projects, try clustering the different activities and work on one project at a time. Although the specific activities may vary, in your mind you’re working on that one project and it doesn’t feel like changing attention.

EMAIL

Reduce the static in your inboxes. Get a lot of non-urgent messages? Do you really need to be on cc? Ask your colleagues to only pop you an email if the matter cannot be discussed during contact moments face-to-face or via the phone. Sometimes just one or two contact moments per the week (say for instance Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon) can cut down 50% of email traffic.

While we’re at it. That same rule applies to you. Do you have two or three things to ask someone? Write down for a contact moment and continue focusing on the task at hand.

Check your email twice a day for just one hour each. And close it down during the moments in between so you can no longer feel drawn to checking new incoming mail and directly answering it. When going through your email, determine your course of action based on these three ways of handling: / urgent — needs an answer now (write a reply but don’t send it right away)
/ urgent — needs research to answer (reply you’ll get back, flag it, write on to-do list)
/ not urgent — can answer later (flag it, write on to-do list)

Reduce unnecessary follow-up communication. Nothing takes up more time and energy than rectifying and explaining yourself. When you write an email or reply, ask yourself the following questions:

/ Have I given all of the necessary information? (Did you answer all questions asked, is a little background story needed for the receiver to understand and take proper action?)
/ Are my questions specific and detailed? (think about what you want from the receiver, when you need it and how you would like to receive it — for instance: .pdf, via mail, etc.)

At first this seems like a lot of work. But if you make it a ritual you will notice you will ask these questions automatically while writing. If you still notice a lot of questions coming back to you, the best way to check your wrong-doings is by not sending your email right away. Write it, hide it, wait, re-read and then send.

That’s it!

No wait, one final advice I’ve come to cherish: However tempting it is to work towards becoming irreplaceable, the moment you strive for the opposite is when you will be most comfortable, creative and productive.

Photo by Shane Rounce – Unsplash.com